Property fraud can happen to anyone but landlords with either tenanted or vacant properties are particularly vulnerable. There are different types of property fraud in the UK but property ‘hijacking’ is becoming more prevalent.
Typically, a ‘tenant’ will rent a property using fake documents, then change their name by Deed Poll and take on the landlord’s name (which can be found on the tenancy agreement). Using this new name and fake documents, the criminal then puts the property on the market with an estate agent.
When the property is sold and a solicitor starts the conveyancing process, it is then difficult to spot any discrepancies and the sales transaction may go through if no-one is alerted. If the criminal receives the proceeds of the sale, the money is usually swiftly transferred to an overseas bank account and impossible to retrieve.
Alternatively, a criminally minded person may simply view details of a property on HM Land Registry’s website (this can be viewed by anyone) and target properties this way.
HM Land Registry is taking steps to reduce the risk of property fraud so there are measures you can now take to protect yourself.
Register an anti-fraud restriction on your property with HM Land Registry. This means that any application to register a sale or mortgage on your property must be certified by a solicitor confirming they are satisfied the person signing the documents is the registered proprietor. If not, the application will be blocked. This also acts as a deterrent to would-be fraudsters.
Sign up to the Land Registry’s free property monitoring service. So if anyone applies to change the register, they will send you an email alert to warn you. This will allow you to take any required action.
Find out more at HM Land Registry - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
There are additional steps you can take to protect yourself from property fraud.
Accurate referencing is essential. It’s a complex process, so we use an independent tenant referencing company to carry out checks and protect you against the use of fake documents such as bank statements and utility bills.
Let your property through a professional lettings agent that is a member of ARLA Propertymark. Members with paid subscription to this Government recognised body have to abide to a strict guidelines and a professional code of conduct. Benham and Reeves are founder members of the membership scheme.
Regularly check your credit rating with a credit agency such as Experian to warn you of possible attempts at identity theft.
We offer a HM Land Registry registration service. We’ll register your properties on your behalf, saving you the time and hassle of completing paperwork/online forms. To find out more, email us